Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Preparing for Paraguay: What we are leaving behind

Family, friends, a home; these are the things we (as a family) hold dear.  Our extended family has recently become much closer (we were always close as a family, now we are more of a tight knit clan) after the loss of several family members a few years ago.  We have become firmly entrenched in the life and laughter of our church.  I have had the same best friend since I was 8 and we have never lived more than 15 miles away from each other.  The kids have made friends at our Homeschool co-op and through scouts.  In some ways, the hardship of leaving these people is the hardest and easiest task ahead of us.
It is hard because they are woven into the fabric of our lives.  These are the people we see every day or week, at least.  Weekend visits to Nanny and Papa (a routine part of our lives for years) will be no more.  The Front Porch Greeting in our church, where we go around the sanctuary and check in on each other, will continue on with out us.  Daily calls to my best friend to see how her kids are doing, how school is going, or to chat about our latest projects and passions, will (with any luck) be on temporary hold.  There is something wonderful to be said about relationships that you know will endure, people you know will not fail you.
There is also something cowardly about this life.  Don't get me wrong, I love my life; if I didn't love my life I wouldn't have the confidence to leave it.  However, when I first started considering working as a missionary, I tried desperately to convince myself I would be terribly ungrateful and a malcontent if I didn't simply enjoy the life I had been blessed with.  It actually kind of worked for a while...a battle waged in me; to go or not to go.  It was during this time when I was reminded of scripture; the story of the rich young ruler. 
In case you haven't heard this episode from the life of Jesus I will give you a brief synopsis (in my own words, as I understand it).  There was a wealthy young ruler who asked Jesus how to get into heaven.  Jesus responded that the man should follow the commandments.  The young ruler said he already did this and inquired what more he could do (how often have we all felt like this, like we are following the letter of the law, but somehow not the spirit)?  Jesus told him he could sell all his possessions, give them to the poor, and follow Him.  The young man became very sad and left Jesus.
I am not wealthy by American standards; I live well below the poverty line.  So, to some, it may seem that I am not very comparable to the wealthy young ruler mentioned above.  However, I am wealthy in a lot of ways.  I am wealthy in family, friends, relationships and, more pragmatically, I am wealthy in comfort, ease, entertainment and security. 
It would be easy to stay in my comfortable home, surrounded by the love and warmth of my family and friends.  It would be easy to say I don't have a lot, and it wouldn't be expected of me to give up what I do have.  But God doesn't call us to do what is easy, or convenient, or pragmatic.  We are called to love like crazy, to come follow Jesus (who was also fairly poor in the Roman Empire, who left His home and family and hit the road, who didn't play it safe and stay in His carpenter's workshop building ploughs, tables and chairs).
So, we are leaving comfort and security and the world we know.  We are NOT, however, leaving the love, support, friendships and joy that we currently enjoy.  Instead, we are taking these things with us, and hope to share them whenever and wherever we can.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Preparing for Paraguay: Passports

I have my passport, I had to get it a few years ago when I took a research trip to Mexico.  I don't remember much about the process...I went to the post office, they took a picture, paid a fee and a few weeks later I had a passport.
Getting passports for 3 kids, though, is not easy.  It's not just that they have three times the fees to pay for.  It's not that I had to drag three kids (aged 9, 7, and 3) to the post office and wait in line and have their pictures taken and wait in line again and etc.  It was the beauracracy.
There have been recent changes to regulations for obtaining passports for children.  This is mainly to prevent parents in a custody battle from fleeing the country with their children; this is a good thing.  For this single mom, though, I could have done with a little less need to prove I have sole and exclusive custody of my kids THREE TIMES. 
Luckily my lawyer had given me a copy of my custody decree when it was filed; so, other than one missing birth certificate, I had all the paperwork I needed already.  The missing birth certificate required a trip to Raleigh and $41.50 fee (it is only $24, which I thought was way more reasonable, if I hadn't needed it 'expedited').  To make that hour drive worth while, I took the kids to the North Carolina Natural Sciences Museum which is only a block away from the vital records office.
All in all, though, the postal worker was so helpful and kind; she double and triple checked everything and even put post-it notes on my application to be sure to remind the (state department?) workers to return all of my documents.  And, really, though it felt like it took forever it was only about 45 minutes (and that include pictures, reviewing paperwork, paying for and printing 3 money orders and making 15 different copies).
I will warn anyone who is thinking of getting their kids' passports anytime soon....bring extra cash; you will probably have a few unexpected fees.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Preparing for Paraguay: Minor Miracles

One of the best things about preparing for the move has been the everyday minor miracles we have been having. 
I think everyone has these blessings everyday, but it isn't often we notice them.  As for us, we have found AMAZING packing boxes (wood and metal shipping crates made to ship army gear all over the place so super sturdy) to keep all of our stuff that will stay at home nice and safe.
We have found (re-found) the love and joy in our relationships with family and friends.  Even relationships that have been a bit neglected lately have been rekindled as everyone prepares to see us off and wish us well.  No one is very happy we are leaving, but they are happy for us.  And so many of them have stepped forward to help in various ways (donating boxes, an un-used loft for storage, the entire lower floor of their home to house us during transition, just loving us and spending time with us, and etc).
We have been able to bless others by donating a lot of the items we don't need/want to the local thrift store. 
There are load of other ways we have been blessed....too many to count, really.  There are also lots of other ways we anticipate being blessed; finding new friends, exploring a new country, coming even closer as a family, learning the joy of pen pals, and more.
I think we should all take more time to look at these minor miracles and thank God for everything he does for us.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Preparing for Paraguay: Downsizing

Here's the thing...my kids and I have a lot of stuff; and by a lot, I mean A LOT of stuff.  It's not that I am a hoarder (despite what my friends say) it's that I am resourceful.  I like to reuse and upcycle stuff other people discount.  So that means we end up with a lot of 'trash' that no one else really wants; and they certainly can't understand why its sitting in my house.
Honestly, I do use up a lot of these items, I make quilts and sew dolls for the kids and etc.  But, I can't take it to Paraguay.  In fact, in order to save on shipping costs, I am trying to only take whatever will fit into our carry on and one checked back (under 50 lbs) per person...in other words...only what the airline will let us take for free. 
It has been a process.  We have actually been preparing for this for a few months.  In August we did a bit of a spring clean early; we went through toys, clothes, and etc and donated whatever we no longer needed/wanted to a local thrift store.  Then through the fall I went through household goods (mainly in my kitchen...I love kitchen gadgets and have quite a few) and got rid of a lot of bits and pieces; serving spooks and forks, potato mashers, extra knives, extra spatulas and such....and etc. 
Now, though, the time has come for the part of the process I have been dreading (and, yes, avoiding until after the holidays); we have to go through the stuff we like/love and decide what we NEED in Paraguay.  Sure, there is some room for a few things we just really really want, but first off we have to get things like clothes, shoes, homeschool supplies, and etc. 
So, I have 7 boxes, about half a dozen Rubbermaid bins, and a few old army foot lockers to pack up whatever we want to store or haul off to the thrift store.  I am a very sentimental person and I do have a few momentos I just can't bear to part with (like the teddy bear a friend brought to the hospital when Avery was born, the kids' baptism certificates, and etc); these items will go into the army storage boxes (for non army brats out there, these are wooden boxes with metal along all the edges and corners like foot lockers; they are used for shipping equipment and then often reused in con-ex and barrack lodgings) the hard wood and metal edges give us the best chance of these items remaining undisturbed by critters while in storage.  The Rubber maids will mostly hold any linens I decide to keep and kids toys; a good portion of linens will be going to the thrift store.  I hope a lot of the kids toys will make it to the thrift store as well, but I am willing to store them to prevent upset among the wee ones.
Oh, and as for where we will store all of this stuff....ah, that's where good friends come in.  It just so happens that a very good friend of mine recently bought his first home with a nice, big workshop.  He works on cars in the downstairs, but there is a loft that is under utilized....so I am getting to haul my bits and bobs up there to sit around for free until we need them again.
So, wish me luck, as I start the final phase of downsizing.  I will let you know how it goes.